The majestic beauty of Merida’s landscape is more than enough to entice exploration, however the feeling of this city provokes a sense of something more. Merida was built on a vision and the passion and pride of the Mayan’s. The inviting energy impresses the soul with a yearning to discover the secret treasures hidden behind the walls. I did not want a tour bus or guide to tell me the story of Merida, I wanted to hear it from the people. I wanted their heartfelt stories to guide me to the places off the beaten path.
Welcomed by Merida friends, I took 48 hours to appreciate the sights and sounds of the locals. My first stop was check-in at the boutique hotel Rosas & Xocolate. Intrigued by the name, I found this Paseo de Montejo address to be a symbol of the historical elegance of this city. The tequila bar at the rooftop terrace was not bad either, after all you must drink what the locals recommend.
From our meet and greet welcome toast at the open-sky Moon Lounge we ventured to Hacienda Xcanatun. From the moment I arrived, I began to pinch myself as I felt I was in a dream. The Mexico I had known, consisted of beaches, chicle, and guacamole, not majestic and heart-warming places. What was once an eighteenth century henequen hacienda and been transformed into a Yucatan palace, providing the most charming accommodation and dining setting I had seen in quite some time. Attention to every detail could be seen in the five years of architectural work done during renovations. I recommend dining on the terrace in the open air overlooking the gardens if traveling for romance.
The first night, my cheeks hurt from smiling and laughing so much with my new life long friends. I already felt complete in my search for local flavor. The second day, I was promised something even more special. After a morning coffee I grabbed my luggage and started a drive towards the coastline. Passing through small villages and roadside farm stands, I was able to capture a simpler life. The beam of joy coming from man serving me a coca-cola overwhelmed me as he acted as if it were a privilege instead of a have-to, something I rarely find in the states. Our journey ended upon arrival at a unique pier lined with colonial style light poles and kissing chairs. Sisal felt as if I were on a movie set. The group boarded a small boat and toured the shoreline. Watching pink flamingos fly overhead and the reflection of turquoise waters, I felt alive in the ocean breeze.
The beauty of the shore continued upon arrival at small lagoon, where we canoe’d among mangroves, flocks of flamingos, and perfect Yucatan sun. The unspoiled sanctuary of Sisal was exactly what I needed to revitalize my inspiration and appreciation of life. The perfect afternoon ended with an arrival at Club de Patos, where we would spend the evening. With organic cuisine and relaxed atmosphere it felt as if time would stand still and I could savor this moment forever. Sisal was special to me, I am not sure I could find the words to explain what I felt. Perhaps it was the presence of the sacred Mayan sun of viewing both sunrise and sunset.
The final morning, I awoke slightly sad. I was not ready to leave this beautiful place. I had the one more day of enjoyment that included walks along Paseo de Montejo and afternoon coffee and pastries- a favorite delicacy of mine in Merida. Perhaps one of the most incredible sights was the Merida market, where rows of spices, produce, snacks, poultry homemade goods and more were lined up for shopping bliss.
The amazing sights and sounds of Merida do not even compare to the people. Treated as if I were a princess, my 48 hours with new life long friends was more than I ever thought it could be. What I have come to realize, is they did not treat me any different than any other person they would have met, Meridians respect everyone they come in contact with. The hospitality of the Yucatan and specifically Merida is refreshing and quite possibly the best in the world. Thank you Merida for an amazing 48 hours and showing me your true grit.
By Mandy Berger
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